Training Teachers, Writers and Readers – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Training Teachers, Writers and Readers

For the past 20 years, Professor of Education Charlie Temple has served as an expert volunteer trainer for the Canadian Organization for Development through Education (CODE). For the last five, he has worked as the international trainer for CODE’s Reading-Sierra Leone project, which engages teachers, schools and children to promote literacy and so far has published 14 illustrated books for children in grades 1 through 8, with plans to publish 20 more titles over the next five years.

As part of a new five-year project called Reading-Sierra Leone 2020, Temple returned to Freetown, Sierra Leone, in August to conduct workshops for writers, illustrators and teachers who are becoming trainers of other teachers.

The project is a partnership between CODE-Canada and the Sierra Leone chapter of PEN, the international writers’ group. With funding from an anonymous Canadian donor, Reading-Sierra Leone 2020 is focused on teachers and children in grades four, five and six in 50 schools in Port Loko, Sierra Leone.

CODE is Canada’s leading international development agency focused uniquely on advancing literacy and education in some of the world’s regions in greatest need. Reading CODE – the  organization’s comprehensive readership initiative that works with local partners in Africa – represents  “a different approach to get students reading and thinking and questioning and solving problems, using meaningful books that bring up moral and social justice issues for debate, to sharpen students’ critical thinking,” Temple says.

During his tenure with CODE, Temple has helped produce indigenous children’s literature in Liberia, Tanzania and Sierra Leone, with books written by local storytellers, illustrated by local artists, and edited by volunteers from North America including Associate Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Caroline Travalia and local author Cynthia DeFelice ’73, as well as other professionals in the publishing field from Canada and the U.S.  Professor of History Susanne McNally and Professor of Biology Beth Newell provided fact-checking help, and students from an upper-level HWS education course helped prepare teachers’ guides for six of the books so far. 

Book production is handled by Sub Saharan Publishers in Ghana, and the books are printed in Abu Dhabi. In addition to CODE, development groups such as UNICEF, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee purchase the books by the thousands for free distribution to Sierra Leone school children.

In 2015, Temple published a research brief detailing the success of CODE’s literacy interventions in Tanzania, where CODE’s local partner, the Children’s Book Project (CBP), has published 350 titles and millions of copies for children and youth.

In addition to Sierra Leone and Tanzania, Reading-CODE programs are active in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Kenya, Mozambique and Liberia, promoting core approaches to reading and writing with variations from country to country, depending on local priorities and traditions, as the program emphasizes culturally relevant and engaging books and pedagogy.

Temple, who joined the HWS faculty in 1982, is a storyteller, folk musician and children’s book author. Through support from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, he has worked to promote critical thinking in schools in Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, and many countries in Africa. He has presented at the National Storytelling Network’s annual conference and earlier this year was the featured storyteller and keynote guest at the Texas Summer Storytelling Conference.

Temple is co-founder and co-chair of the Board of Directors for Critical Thinking International, Inc. He received his B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina, and his M.Ed. in curriculum studies and his Ph.D. in reading education from the University of Virginia. Prior to joining HWS, he taught at the University of Houston-Victoria.